running through December 7th, the time has come to enroll or change Medicare prescription plans.
Due to the confusion of simultaneous open enrollment for the Washington Healthcare Benefits Exchange (October 1-March 31), let’s be sure we’re looking at the correct venue. The exchange is NOT for Medicare folks. It IS for those without insurance, and IPA’s (In Person Assistors) are available at the Valley View Health Center in Raymond (360 942 3040), the North Beach Family Health Center in Klipsan (360 665 3000), and at either office noted at the end of this column.
And, now, back to Part D. This is either new information, or a reminder — for those who have been doing this each year for a while. Either way, good stuff to know.
Remember that insurance plans for your prescriptions can change dramatically from year to year. Formularies (the drugs covered) may not provide the same prescriptions as this year, and the premiums can also increase, so it pays to do a little shopping. Saving money’s always a good thing.
There’s a couple ways to find out your options, the best plans and which direction to go. You can go directly to www.medicare.gov and look for “Drug Coverage” and chase down the Health Plan finder. There you can examine the various plans available in your area, make your comparisons and contact the plan that best fits.
Or you can contact either of the offices at the end of the column. We have a handy little double-sided paper we can give to you—or mail if requested—that will provide the info needed for us to explore on your behalf. Our staff will find the best three plans that meet your needs and then, again, you make the choice and contact the plan. And, no, we can’t make recommendations.
What if I don’t take any prescriptions? Do I still have to do something? Yes. You’ll either have to pick a plan or pay a penalty. The penalty is 1% of whatever the average standard premium is for the year; it accrues monthly, and never goes away. So if you postpone signing-up, when you do you’ll end up paying the premium plus the fine.
You also may be eligible for a low-income subsidy (LIS) if you meet the eligibility criteria; and this could result in lower premiums and co-pays. Again, saving money is a good thing.
Now if you have current drug coverage under an existing plan (through employee insurance, etc), you will receive a letter stating your coverage meets or exceeds the Medicare standard. Then, you need to do nothing—except save the notice. It could come in handy if there’s a hiccup along the line somewhere.
And just in case your eyes haven’t quite blurred over yet, October 15-December 7 is also the period you can change Medicare Advantage Plans. Chances are if you have one of these, you know it. If not, or thinking about it, Advantage Plans are basically Medicare plus. That is, you can have the coverage of original Medicare and add coverage for drugs, vision, dental, etc. And, obviously, premiums generally reflect those additions.
Questions? Give us a call and ask to speak to someone about Medicare open enrollment, and you’ll be on your way.
Information & Assistance: Raymond: 942-2177, 888-571-6557, www.o3a.org